Polish - England's Second Language

April 5th, 2013

Polish is now the third most-spoken language in England, behind English and Welsh – and just barely behind Welsh.

Barely Beaten by Welsh

A survey of 56 million people living in England and Wales conducted as part of the 2011 census revealed that 546,000 people in England speak Polish as their main language. The same survey showed 562,000 Welsh speakers in Wales, just barely edging out Polish as the #2 language. About 4.2 million people in England and Wales speak a first language other than English, but the other 3.7 million or so are divided between many other languages, including Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, French, Chinese and Portuguese. That’s a remarkable number of languages spoken in England and Wales, but none are as impressive as the sheer numbers of Polish-speakers.

Slowing Down

Statistics suggest that the growth of Polish in England is slowing down alongside a slowdown in the number of Poles entering the country. While the growth of other languages in England in general continues to rise, individual ethnic groups will of course rise and fall depending on economic conditions and other factors.

The ongoing evolution of Polish into what some call “Ponglish,” with many English words and inflections being imported into the Polish language, is sped up by the number of Polish immigrants returning from England, actually, so this process – controversial inside Poland itself – may actually begin to speed up even more if England’s Polish communities begin heading back to their home country, lugging along a wealth of English ‘corruptions’ in their daily language (I’ve heard tales of Poles going szoping and buying a tiszert).

Getting Around

What’s really interesting is that it now pays for England’s main population to learn a little Polish, which seems bizarre if you’re not aware of the new circumstances. Leading newspapers have even published stories listing useful phrases in case the English encounter someone who only speaks Polish, which is a fascinating turn of events! One can only hope that England’s tendency to resent immigrant groups (most notably its ongoing troubles with anti-Pakistani sentiment) doesn’t suddenly focus on Poles now that they have been revealed as such a strong internal enclave.

In the mean time, I’ll be brushing up on my Polish the next time I travel to London – just to be safe!